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Published : May 09, 2015 | Author : goutham
Category : Human Rights laws | Total Views : 6104 | Rating :

I am a final year law student V B.A.LLB Bangalore Institute of Legal Studies

Capital Punishment V. Human Rights

Does the society need capital punishment to punish its convicts or are we taking away the lives of convicts who have every right to live on this earth.

‘‘I think life is sacred whether it is abortion or death penalty’’- Tim Kaine

Death penalty or capital punishment is a legal process wherein a person is put to death by a state in accordance to a crime committed. The word ‘capital’ comes from the Latin word ‘capitalis’ (of the head). Crimes that result in death penalty are known as ‘capital offences’ or ‘capital crimes’.

Capital punishment has been used over the years by almost every society in order to punish the guilty for some particular crimes such as punishment for premeditated murder, espionage, treason, or as part of military justice. In some countries sexual crimes such as rape, adultery and sodomy carry the death penalty, so does religious crimes such as apostasy (the formal renunciation of the State religion). In many retentionist countries (countries that use death penalty) drug trafficking is also a capital offense. In China, human trafficking and serious cases of corruption are also punished by the death penalty.

Only 58 nations (including India) are actively practicing capital punishment, whereas 95 countries have abolished the use of capital punishment.

Back in 1947 India retained the 1861 penal code which provides death penalty for murder. It has been estimated that 1422 executions have taken place in 16 Indian states between 1953 and 1963; and it is hard to measure the rate of death sentence execution between 1980 and 1990. It is estimated that 2 to 3 persons were hung to death every year.

In the Judgment of ‘Bachan Singh v/s State of Punjab (1980)2SCJ475’, 1980, the Supreme Court ruled that death penalty should only be used in the ‘rarest of rare’ cases, but does not give a definition as to what ‘rarest of rare’ means.

There has been a huge debate around the world over the use of death penalty; whether it should exist or not. Every man has a right to live. Article 21 of the Indian constitution provides to its citizens ‘protection of life and personal liberty’ – no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law. This exception to life has created a dilemma across the world.

Is the judiciary valuing innocent lives which have perished to that of a person committing a heinous crime such as murder? Do criminals who commit a heinous crime such as murder lose the right to live on this earth? Are innocent convicts being executed? Does death penalty take away the right for future appeal that would have been filed by the convict? What is the remedy to wrong executions? Does death penalty to a convict provide proper remedy to the family that has lost its member and gone through the horror and pain of losing its loved one? These are just the few questions that are being debated across the world in every society over the legality or legitimacy of death penalty whether it must exist or be eradicated.

Crime rates have not decreased in spite of death penalty or capital punishment in India or any other country with such practices. The death rate in India per 1000 people was reported at 8.04% in 2010 where half of it were criminal homicide, the inclusion of death penalty hasn’t provided any Midas touch to bring down the death rates.

Many writers and thinkers are to a conclusion that death penalty is partial to individuals because Ajmal Kasab a terrorist from Pakistan who was one of the accused in the Mumbai attack, 2008 (also known as 26/11), who was captured alive by the police and after due legal process and production of proper evidence he was found guilty for the terrorist attack and was charged for possession of dangerous weapons, was sentenced to death by the Supreme Court of India on 29th August 2012 but has not yet been executed. Instead he had filed a mercy petition to the President of India but was substantively hanged after much delay on November 21,2012, this delay has kept the convicts in death row for several years. There are 26 mercy petitions pending before the President of India where some are dated back to 1992. The common people are executed faster. This brings about a sense of partiality and forms a loophole in our own judicial system. The death penalty is implemented or executed rarely. Out of 300 murderers only 1 gets a death penalty. Studies have shown that death penalty has not been a deterrent because according static’s death penalty and murder rates have a positive co-relation which means; where death penalty lies murder rates are high. According to a survey report many police chiefs and other law enforcement officers’ death penalty is not a deterrent to people who commit violent crimes.

People who commit murders do not think of the consequences or the punishment that they might go through. The reason behind this is that the act done is mostly spontaneous or an emotional outburst and is at the spur of the moment, it is very unlikely that they are mentally stable.

According to recent studies, life imprisonment costs 10 times lesser than when a person is executed after a long process or the bureaucratic process that has to be undergone for a person to be executed.
There is a speculation that death penalty is the worst way of violating human rights, because right to live is the most important right. A few believe that judicial hanging is one of the forms of legal murder.. The mental torture that a person goes through while being executed is far beyond imagination. It is inhuman and a monster within the society some believe.

“I think capital punishment works great. Every killer you kill never kills again” – Bill Mayer

But then there would be total anarchy if death penalty would be abolished because everyone fears death, who would want to end their life? So death penalty may act as a deterrent for future crimes that are going to be committed. Abolitionists may contend that death penalty should be abolished because human life is precious and cannot be valued for anything, but then it is the article of faith it treats the human not like animal, instead of death penalty honor humans with dignity. A person who has committed a crime is aware of his mistakes and he is alone responsible for his act and consequences. Executions are done keeping in mind the safety of the public.

Executing a convict may not bring back a person who is already dead , but executing the convict, future acts may be prevented. In order to ban death penalty in India, the public should be convinced that justice can be provided without executing the convict by brutality (there are attempts being made for painless executions, but death is death and it is inevitable). However, abolishing death penalty may lead to rise in crime rates, laws will be broken more often and various kinds of illegal vigilante style justice may rise.

There can be no end to this debate because until heinous crime exits, there will be capital punishments.

The author can be reached at: goutham@legalserviceindia.com

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Capital punishment, death penalty or execution is punishment by death. The sentence that someone be punished in this manner is a death sentence. Crimes that can result in a death penalty are known as capital crimes or capital offences

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